Guess who is the third hottest team in the Eastern Conference?
That’s right. The New York Rangers are on a roll!
What a difference 28 hours makes.
The three goal offensive explosion against the Devils in Brick City matched their total in the previous four games. Combined.
The first ten minute of the opening frame was a scoreless back-and-forth affair until Johan Hedberg ambled out of his crease to play the puck on a NJ power play. Then all hell broke loose. Derek Stepan knocked down Hedberg’s clearing try and then outworked a confused Peter Harrold along the wall. Stepan’s shot/pass (everything at the net right?) glanced off Ilya Kovalchuk where it was popped out of the air by a flying Michael Del Zotto on the doorstep for the shortie and the first Rangers lead in the opening period since, what seems like, the Clinton administration.
The Devils answered back on their next power play with J.T. Miller (don’t sweat it kid, you have jam) in the box. Del Zotto kicked a rebound of a Harrold shot directly to Travis Zajac in the slot. Zajac, possessor of a freshly-minted monster deal (hey Devil’s Brad Richards!) beat Hank for his fifth of the season and a tie game 1-1.
Just over 90 seconds after that, Dan Girardi made a nifty play banking the puck off the endboards where it came to a wide open Carl Hagelin who deposited into the wide open net. Go to the net, get the cookie. Was this veteran savvy by G or a bad miss and a lucky bounce? Doesn’t matter. What did matter was that the NYR were up 2-1 on their Hudson River rivals.
Until, Anton Volchenkov tied the game at 2-2 when he sent one on net that got past Henrik Lundqvist after being deflected by somebody. It was hard to tell who the Russian defenseman’s shot hit off before finding its way to the net as the mass of people in front of Hank looked like the line at Chipotle.
Four goals in five and a half minutes? The period looked like Rangers Devils 1992 and not 2013.
The game would remain tied until Rick Nash, that man, that magical man with the soft soft hands put his imprint on the game. The third NYR goal and eventual game winner was a sniper’s goal. MDZ caught the Devils in a line change and hit a straking Rick Nash with a bullet pass. Nash gained the zone on a 2 on 1 and ripped a low laser by the Moose. When you look at the replay watch the flex Nash gets on his stick, neraly snapping it in half. That is a strong man with soft soft soft hands. It was nice to see an actual breakout pass by a NYR defenseman that lead to an odd man rush as those have been about as common this year as an Arron Asham sighting.
The rest of the game was left to the other magical man in Ranger blue, the King, Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist was amazing, he made two huge saves on Kovalchuk and Bernier earlier in the match and shut the door in the third a period where the Rangers didn’t muster much offense, managing a measly four shots on goal
Fortunes have quickly changed and the Rangers could and should take their next 3 games and vault right back into the middle of the middle of the playoff pack. However there are things that need to be addressed. There is still no semblance of a power play and the Rangers aren’t drawing many man-advantage chances. The Blueshirts were 0-2 on the night including one phantom call on Zajac where Girardi’s elbow actually hit Hank and sent him sprawling to the ice Martin Brodeur style.
Also, they still don’t score and the third and fourth lines contribute almost nothing. A certain forward currently playing in Hartford whose name sounds exactly like Chris Kreider would sure look good on the third line with J.T. (Jam Time?) Miller and energize that unit, maybe even pop some goals.
The defense around Hank needs to get tighter and that should change when Marc Staal comes back. Del Zotto showcased his immense talents but needs to be more consistent with his game. MDZ and the NYR need these type of games to be the norm and not just flashes of brilliance by #4.
Today things are a bit less rotten in Rangerland. The next three winnable games against Florida, Washington and Philly will go a long way towards determining how the season goes for the 2013 New York Rangers.